Depending on what you’re talking about, 30 really isn’t that big of a number. Thirty dollars isn’t an exorbitant amount of money (although it means the world to me and my lightweight wallet). Thirty people in a room wouldn’t furrow the fire marshal’s brow, and unless they’re waiting for the bathroom or their first meal after a hunger strike, a 30-minute wait wouldn’t put too much of a hurtin’ on anyone. But 30 years? Now 30 years is a whole other story. Thirty years of marriage, a 30-year jail bid, 30 years in one home—that’s a long time any way you slice it. And a 30th birthday? Good skooga mooga. That’s alotta candles on one lil’ ol’ cake.
By now, I’m pretty sure I’m leaving myself wide open for your suppositions that I will be turning 30 real soon. (Insert your objections here: Girl, no! You look too young to be 30! I can’t believe it! Shut up! For real? And so on and so forth…) I know, I know, I can’t believe it myself. I feel like I’m still 24, 25 at the absolute most—I look young, I feel young, I can still climb trees and bust cartwheels and smoke a sucka in a 100-yard footrace like I did back when I was still in a training bra and off-brand sneakers. But according to my birth certificate and other official-looking documents that my mother produced to convince me that my born year was indeed 1979, I have embarked on three decades of life already. And what a bittersweet celebration this May 21 will be.
Let me clarify: I am not in the least bit worried about the vanity aspect of it. Thank God Black don’t crack—at least for most of us; I could name a few who’ve had a hard, unceremonious road to aging (cough, cough, Jasmine Guy). My mom is gorgeous, my grandmother was fabulous up until the day she went on to glory and my aunties have better skin than I do now, some twenty-five years their junior. My struggle is defining what it means to be 30. Should I be married? Have a car that’s paid for? A financial planner, bangin’ 401(k) and some other vested accounts? Couldn’t I at least have a house with a little yard to fuss over and a mortgage to stress about? Unless God turns some amazing tricks within the next seven days, I’ll be turning 30 unmarried with one child, living in a cute but quite understated apartment with a rack of student loans and a job that I enjoy but is about as close to my dream of writing and editing for a major Black publication as the Ying Yang Twins are to being articulate.
My hang-up about turning 30 is a fear—in fact, my biggest fear, trumping even frogs and cicadas—that I’m not “where I’m supposed to be,” that I squandered my youthful 20’s on club-hopping and a string of jobs that make for funny stories but little actual progression, that I haven’t accomplished enough to account for all of the money spent in undergrad and my yet-unfinished graduate degree.
My hang-up about turning 30 is a fear—in fact, my biggest fear, trumping even frogs and cicadas—that I’m not “where I’m supposed to be,” that I squandered my youthful 20’s on club-hopping and a string of jobs that make for funny stories but little actual progression, that I haven’t accomplished enough to account for all of the money spent in undergrad and my yet-unfinished graduate degree. Every New Year’s Eve, I sit down with my journal and a huge sheet of white poster board and write out my goals for that year, categorized into personal, professional, physical, spiritual and financial. When I look back on my outlined objectives for 2003, 2005, hell even 2008, and see that so much has been still undone, it’s a challenge for me to go forth into 30 with my characteristic perky, go-getter attitude.
The bottom line is that 30 is super-grown. Silly, youthful mistakes are no longer excusable with “she’s just starting out” or “she’s just young.” Thirty means that you should have your ish together and to be quite honest, I’m still trying to figure out if I do. I am working on operating in God’s time and not assigning an age-based deadline to my every goal; clearly, that method has failed me because according to the schedule I set for myself back when I was 23 and completely clueless, I was supposed to have my PhD, a husband, couple more kids and a brownstone in Brooklyn. I resolve that it will happen, but not in my favorite time—right now. Maybe God has more lessons for me to learn, more doors to open, more opportunities to create, more growth for me to experience before those goals can be checked off on the ol’ poster board or scratched out in the journal.
Now when I say I want to do something, I try to leave it open-ended and walk toward it in baby steps. No harm, no foul if I don’t do it by the time I’m 30 or 35 or 40 (though that’ll be a whole other article, so you’ve been ten years forewarned, dearest Clutch readers). It’ll happen in divine time and honestly, that’s the best time to operate in. Don’t think I’m always this philosophical or zen-at-peace about it. Writing this very article has been therapeutic for me and hopefully, entertaining for you. It’s a work in progress to not be scared of the big 3-0 and all of the baggage that comes with it. But I’m constantly renewing my determination not to let this new age define me but to go on ahead and let 30 rock.